13 April 2024

** Photo Anthems Blog has Moved **



Hi, all! 

Yes, that's correct. Photo Anthems blog has been around for 17 years on this platform. But now, as Google Blogger has made changes regarding who can access my blog, I've migrated my blog onto another platform and combined it with my gallery of work onto one completely NEW PhotoAnthems.com website, rebuilt from scratch. 

I am still making changes and adjustments and will post again regularly soon. I'm still figuring out what customizations I want for the website as a whole. You can now find my blog at PhotoAnthems.com/Blog, so please continue to follow me there! Thanks for sticking with me this long!


29 November 2023

Is Photography Going the Way of Chivalry? PART 3- Now Comes AI

“Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last...” 

~ Stephen Hawking

Vietnamese Woman, Anonymous 

Artificial Intelligence is set to revolutionize so many industries! Like the automobile, transistors, semiconductors, and the internet, AI has become the next paradigm shift. How we conduct business, advance medical research, or even find the best flight deals has become AI-dependent. We can even use AI to make AI better!

But we’ve all seen the movies. AI has been at the forefront of our minds since 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), War Games (1983), Terminator (1984), Short Circuit (1986), The Matrix (1999), and AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001). We were thoroughly entertained by Wall-E (2008), but I didn’t like Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) that much, but it was still a “must-see.” And let us remember the most popular AI character of all, Lt. Commander Data of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Data analysis, facial recognition, pattern recognition, forensics... all GREAT uses for Artificial Intelligence. Off the top of my head, I use AI on the daily for writing and translation. I could add location tracking, navigation, and hotel and airline bookings. Amazon, Netflix, Disney + all use AI to recommend content to me. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter (X or whatever) customize ads to target me. I’m used to that. But I DON'T need AI to become an artist FOR me! Help? Used as a tool? Sure. But I will come back to that in a minute. 

In the previous two posts, I covered the first two detriments, Social Media and Ethics, in detailed brevity... if there is such a thing. There is so much to go into covering all aspects of each concern that it is impossible to do here. So, I’m attempting to give details highlighting the significant or apparent parts. And now we come to AI... Artificial Intelligence. Since this is a post about photography, let me start there.

Everyone knew Adobe Photoshop would be a game-changer. I have no problem with creating composite images. I used to take pictures of exciting skies to use in other compositions. When you go on a shoot, you can’t control everything in nature, especially what the clouds will be doing. I could select a matching sky background in my “Clouds and Sky” folder and use it in my recent photo shoot. You don’t have to do that now. With Generative Fill, you can select an area and type “sky with clouds,” and it seamlessly pops in. In fact, you can do that with anything! Want a dog chewing a bone? Just select an area and type it in. Don’t like the dog it generates? Be more specific! [Green Great Dane with six legs and ears like an elephant, pulling a knife on the mailman.] BOOM! There you have it. 

Vietnamese Woman, Anonymous 

This took off with Social Media filters, mainly on Instagram. There has been an over-dependence on post-work edits for a long time instead of getting it right in camera. "I'll fix it in post!" became my most hated phrase. With so many AI developments, you can create the shot you want without a camera. Can you purchase AI-generated stock images? Shutterstock says no, although they use AI to help you find the content you want. They said: “However, we will not accept AI-generated content being directly uploaded to our library because we want to ensure the proper handling of IP rights and artist compensation.” 

iStock also decided to ban AI-generated content. Rounding out the big 3 of stock agencies, Adobe is all in! Or are they? Adobe tried to justify using AI-generated content last year, but recently, they caught hell for it. They initially decided to accept it, provided the creators labeled it AI-generated. But now...

"After it came to light that Adobe Stock is selling AI-generated images of the Israel-Hamas conflict, the photo giant has changed its policy regarding fake images that depict real events. Adobe addressed the issue in a blog post last week, announcing it will prohibit AI images with titles that imply they depict newsworthy events. A Washington Post report found that unlabeled AI images are being sold on Adobe Stock; something that the company says it will take action on. 'Stock content should always be clearly marked when used in editorial content to help ensure people are not misled into thinking a real event is being depicted by the stock content,' says Adobe." Matt Growcoot,  Adobe Stock Changes Policy on AI Images Depciting Real EventsPetapixel, 27 Nov 2023

Selling AI-generated images of the Israeli-Hamas Conflict? I can’t even fathom how short-sighted this notion was. Actually, there WAS no short-sightedness. It was deliberate! Making a policy to allow AI-generated content with the requirement that it be labeled assumes that people won’t remove the label. Adobe is not that naive. They made a qualifier to be used as a hold harmless clause upon purchase to exonerate them of any liability or wrongdoing. 

Vietnamese Woman, Anonymous 

But what else do we have? Photography Contests! 

Artist Wins Photography Contest After Submitting AI-Generated Image, Then Forfeits Prize

An A.I.-Generated Picture Won an Art Prize. Artists Aren’t Happy

And this has been going on for years! Sometimes, a Photoshop-manipulated image goes against many photo contest rules. But now, as I mentioned, you don’t need a camera, you don’t need to be on location, and you don’t need to have a subject in front of you! We sit at the precipice of the in-house “photographer,” who is waiting for your descriptive request! Cameras use AI tech to autofocus and process data from the sensor. Computational photography can correct optical aberrations. You can use a wide-angle lens but fix it in post to adjust for barreling, pincushion effects, or perspective preferences. All that is short-lived. With AI, you can just eliminate the camera and lens altogether!

But this isn’t just about photography. Writers are cool with using AI as a tool to HELP with writing. NOT as a replacement for writers. And SAG actors are fighting to maintain the rights to their digital likenesses. Sculptors? They are okay for now until someone builds the first robot artist. AI could be working on that right now... building a physical construct to give itself an existence outside of bits and bytes. Conspiracy theory? I don’t know. I’m just saying.

Vietnamese Woman, Anonymous 

Is art done by AI still art?

Wow. This has been debated ad nauseum already. I agree with the crowd that says no, and my reasons as a photographer may be hypocritical. Back in the day, they used to say photography couldn’t be considered art for the same reasons I can’t consider AI-generated outputs as art. You can’t use a mechanical device (algorithms or software) to reproduce something for artistic purposes. They said the same thing about cameras. My argument for photography is that I am manipulating light to create a realistic or surreal representation of what I see using tools... a camera, a lens, and other accessories like flash, triggers, tripod, or ND filters. 

This is different from what AI does. AI has a database of a trillion images that it amalgamates into a single representation of a user’s request. Because we have built an internet, mainly via social media, full of images of every subject matter known to man, AI can extrapolate those pictures and make a single ideal image on demand, per your specific instructions. Looking for an Asian man wearing a NY Yankees baseball uniform, standing next to a lake with his Vizsla-Dalmatian mix dog, holding a rod and reel with a bearded dwarf shark on the hook, on a snowy day? AI extrapolates a mix of billions of images to combine to create that one requested image. It may be my shot of a Vizsla dog, but it is colored like a Dalmatian. It could be your photo of an Asian fisherman, my friend’s vacation photo from Lake Tahoe, and everything else from images taken off Google.

AI isn’t inspired to create anything. It’s not alive (yet). It has no feelings and does not create intrinsically. When it draws something, it’s not doing it from life experiences but programming from a database. It has no reason or purpose to create beyond being told to do so. It doesn’t learn. It becomes more proficient, but that’s not learning. To learn, you have to be aware of yourself, the material, and its application beyond. AI improves its programming with better programming, input, and data. But at least for now, it’s no better than the questions asked of it. A chef creates a dish and tastes it to see if it needs more salt, based on his or her preferences, the nature of the food, and guesses what others might enjoy. AI can’t do that. It can’t taste. It draws only from a database and makes what it is told.

"It’s not just artworks: analysis of the training database for Stable Diffusion has revealed it also sucked up private medical photography, photos of members of the public (sometimes alongside their full names), and pornography." Laurie Clarke, When AI can make art – what does it mean for creativity?, Sat 12 Nov 2022

Vietnamese Woman, Anonymous 

And what are the legal ramifications facing AI? Are regulations on the horizon?

This is the fundamental matter! At what point can I complain that an AI program used my copyrighted intellectual property without my permission. Well, it’s all up in the air right now. AI companies argue that their work output is Transformative of any copyrighted work and, therefore, subject to Fair Use

Problems will inevitably arise in greater magnitude, with AI affecting millions of people and the companies behind them. AI is only as good as the humans who create them and the input data. Remember, Facebook implemented AI into its photo recognition software. It labeled black people as gorillas. Twitter unveiled a bot from Microsoft that had to be immediately taken down after it began spewing racist and sexist tweets in under a day. Other examples include Amazon’s AI hiring algorithms that discriminated against women. In 2019, it was found that an algorithm used on 200 MILLION people was fed faulty data points that made it conclude that white people needed more healthcare than anyone else. This impacted funding for hospitals that treat lower-income areas, insurance company payouts, and forced minorities to pay more for the same level of care. And COMPAS (Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions), whose AI algorithm erroneously concluded that black people were twice more likely to become repeat offenders than white people. But did it incorrectly conclude, or does it reflect the biases of the people who programmed it?

Vietnamese Woman, Anonymous 

AI is the scariest of all the detriments I see for photography. Creating digital images and videos using no hardware, people, or reality is a realistic concept today. Not in the future. TODAY! It’s all a matter of how far people want to go. Studio executives can decide not to use any writers. Hell, newspapers did it with photographers a decade ago! Anybody with an agenda can create enough rage, fear, and dissent to manipulate minds by the millions, using AI as weapons of mass DISinformation. As for art, I hate it. It’s getting so real you can hardly tell. Specifically, I detest art nude AI. When it looks a bit too perfect, it usually is. AI still struggles with skin texture, hands, and genitalia. Body portions can sometimes be off, but they do an excellent job with hair, eyes, and facial structure. In another year or two, you won’t know the difference. 

Social Media, Ethics, and Artificial Intelligence are my top three detriments to photography. I liked AI when I saw it used to show what ancient statues of people might look like in real life. I remember people lost their minds when a forensic study on Jesus Christ and the computer model depicted him as black. I’d rather see AI as a tool for us to do JOBS more efficiently and leave creative work alone. That’s how man first began. We expressed ourselves and our individuality with clothing, accessorizing how we wore it. We made things out of wood and stone. And we drew pictures. That’s ours. And therein lies the base of our humanity. We learned to help one another. And we drew pictures. AI should be like the Jetsons, where AI, robots, and machines handle daily tasks that free up time for humans... to create more art.

Vietnamese Women, Anonymous 

22 November 2023

Is Photography Going the Way of Chivalry? PART 2- Ethics in Photography

“Every time we raise the camera to our eyes, we become morally responsible to “the photographed” as well as the viewers. Photography cannot be just a privilege, it’s a responsibility that should not be abdicated.”

― Neeta Satam


Ethics in photography plays a vital role in its continuation as an essential medium of art and journalism. Ethics is integrity, truthfulness, honestly, and respect. I talk about remaining true to the business of photography because I've seen, more times than I'd hate to admit, photographers trying to find a competitive edge, be different, or acquire an advantage at the expense of the industry as a whole. It doesn't have to be that way and that becomes a problem when people decide to do photography with no moral code or respect for the business or fellow photographers. 

I'm a fan of American Football. I grew up playing it. I sat next to my dad who is a football and track and field guy. He watched football every Sunday as soon as we got home from church. As a kid, I tried to understand the game, but it seemed like there was just a bunch of guys running around like an amalgam of angry antagonized ants. I could not see how he knew what each penalty was before the announcer called it. 

"HOLDING! Number 73!" he say aloud, talking to himself. And then the referee would turn on his mic, face the crowd and repeat exactly what my father said.

Football is the perfect example here. Everyone on the field wants to win. Everybody trains hard, practices, watches film to know how to defend a player or trick plays. But then you have some who are dirty players who purposefully try to injure an opposing player with nasty tackles, late hits, or targeting. Instead of competing head to head, they'd rather win playing dirty. This is how I see photographers who don't respect the game. They don't act in the interest in the league as a whole which affects their own livelihoods.


Most prevalent today are dirty photographers who steal other people's work. An artist's work is their intellectual property, but getting into the legalese on this topic is the subject of a plethora of authored works, already. The point here is highlighting its effect on photography and that essentially is the corrosion of trust and the diminishment of inspiration. Theft of intellectual property is no different from a convenience store owner watching thieves walk out with product. And when photographers steal, it sets a bad precedent in the minds of everyone else... as if all photographers are stealing. 

And it's not so simple as a nefarious person right-clicking on someone else's shot and calling it their own. How many times have you heard, "Oh, I found it on the internet!" or "I just pulled it off the web." And then they print it on t-shirts or card stock and sell it. That's theft! I think this first became prominent with music and movies and any of us can argue who suffers more. In either case, it's become commonplace and accepted as plausible theft. Below are a summary of statistics from an article by BetterStudio.com, "31 Image Theft Statistics and Facts You Need To Know in 2023", January 14, 2023

Online Image Theft Statistics (Editor’s Choice)

  • A total of 2.5 billion images are stolen every day
  • Every day, image theft costs 536.5 billion Euros
  • 64% of professional photographers reported theft more than 200 times
  • Social media users and bloggers steal 49% of images online
  • 64% of photographers experience image theft, but 33% do not take legal action
  • Disabling right-click menu is the best way to protect against image theft
  • The watermarks of 68% of stolen photographers were removed
  • Nearly 40% of full-time photographers cannot afford to take legal action
  • U.S. leads in illegal image use with 33.90 percent
  • Unlicensed images are typically 1920 x 1080 HD size

So the prevalence in intellectual property theft in general, whether that be photography or any artistic medium, has the potential to put artists at risk. The business can't survive without protections, but protections would not be necessary if people controlled their desire to steal. Fat chance on that, though. Thieves have always existed and always will. But everybody doesn't have to be one. Otherwise, we become the flash mob of thieves hitting Louis Vuitton stores.


"There are no ethical proposals, there are only ethical acts" 

- Ludwig Wittgenstein

Consent and Privacy

When I refer to Consent, I'm speaking in terms of permission relating to taking a photo as well as it's use within the confines of contractural agreement or moral implications. Privacy is carried in the same bucket. If you don't have consent, you are invading a person's rights to privacy. You may have a model release that gives you consent to take photos for your website and portfolio. But if you use those images in a commercial ad promoting a pharmaceutical drug, or a voting proposition, or a product that may embarrass the model, you have violated someone's rights. 

Drones and Cameras with Super Zooms have become popular in the last decade. Sure, they have practical uses. Who hires a helicopter to fly a photographer around for arial shots when you can spend a fraction of that with a 4-propeller drone with an articulating camera that shoots 8k video? But now every country has laws regulating and in some case discouraging the use of drones within its borders. I can't travel with a drone because I may travel from one country to the next which doesn't allow drones. Nicaragua does not allow you to bring a drone into its country and will confiscate it as contraband. I can't recall which country, but it allows drones, however you need a permit to fly it, which is VERY expensive and takes a long time to get. Thailand allows drones, but if you fly one unregistered, you could get 5 years in prison!

All this being said, Consent and Privacy considerations in photography have the potential to instill mistrust and distaste for photography and photographers. Think about it relative to politics. Once a politician gets caught lying or acts in a manner that is ill-favored among the constituents, they lose faith and the politician ends his career. An epidemic in consent and privacy violations becomes the George Santos of photography. And once that happens, regulations and crackdowns are soon to follow. 


Contextual/Staging = Misinformation

The biggest violators of Ethical standards are the ones using images out of context for the purposes of  creating a different narrative that belies its proper context. Talk about eroding trust! Social Media has become originis non grata for misinformation campaigns. Grotesque governments and odious organizations spend billions proliferating lies, fear, war, and death to undermine free societies and stampede human rights. At one time, a meme used to be bothersome and annoying, but fun in some ways. I remember explaining what a meme was to my mother when Facebook first became available to the public. 

Now, bad information is so widespread and rampant, we have to first fact-check it with other sources before we can believe or act on what we see. I don't have empirical data to back me up, but I'll venture to say a vast majority get duped into believing what they see with no regard to checking sources and creditability. Cracking down on theft and privacy infringements is a bit more clean-cut than trying to regulate misinformation. The US has freedom of speech laws that make shutting down intentionally misleading content difficult. In addition, or at least for now, social media platforms have been left alone to self-regulate. But even now, Twitter has gone rogue and Facebook is backtracking on their policy to bar misinformation in lieu of allowing it and thus bringing in more profits. Manipulated images and videos are at the forefront of these misinformation campaigns.



My concerns address a wide variety of issues that plague photographers and the industry of photography. Ethics plays a large part in how we view the value of photography. Theft, consent, and misinformation are only a few of the possible points to address. But I could write a book on cheating scandals in contests via improper photo manipulation, staging compositions (physically manipulating the environment before taking the photo), as well as baiting (feeding) wildlife into a composition so you can get your shot. We could also cover trespassing and other law-breaking acts photographers do to get the picture they want. And don't think for a second that I'm speaking self-righteously. I've been just as guilty and even banned from some popular spots because of not following the rules. I can admit I was wrong. I knew better and I should have been better.

Leica announced the Leica M11-P as the first camera that features photo credentials to guarantee authenticity. That's how prevalent the need for truth in photography has become. 

"In 2019, Adobe, The New York Times, and Twitter partnered to solve that problem by founding the Content Authority Initiative (CAI) in November. (Twitter left CAI after Elon Musk purchased the company.) CAI, which now boasts over 200 partners, gave itself the difficult task of finding a “long-term, holistic solution” for verifying the authenticity of photos. In 2021 it joined with another initiative called Project Origin to form the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA)." - Matthew S. Smith, 17 NOV 2023, IEEE.Org

I want to do the right thing every time I hold up my camera, post a photo, or search for a shot I need. It's not always easy when you look around and realize doing the right thing looks like it might make you lose a gig, make less money, or get left behind while others exploit situations that benefit them, but harm the rest of us. You'll have to pick which battles you want to fight and what hill you choose to risk it all on. But I think if you are smart or can discuss dilemmas with mentors, you can still find yourself on the top of the hill holding up your flag with a bag of money to your name.

"Photography ethics means following a set of moral principles and guidelines when taking and sharing photos. It involves considerations like respecting people's privacy, obtaining consent when necessary, and not manipulating images to deceive or mislead viewers."

- Ryne Knudson, June 14, 2019. "Five steps for today's ethical photographer", Matterport.com

13 November 2023

Is Photography Going the Way of Chivalry? PART 1- Social Media

Art Model, Alba

In the world of social media, likes, subscriptions, reels, shorts, and favorites... we sometimes become caught up in things that don't matter in the real scheme of things. We search for the next trendy topic, subject, or technique and adopt it like everyone else does. In some ways, I have no problem with this. At its core is artistic expression, or at the very least... expression.Yet I do see some irredeemable aspects that harm photography as a whole. I want to become better in my photographic art journey. I aspire to find more fulfilling intrinsic value in the artistic genre I love and I feel it is also important to consider the health and advancement of the BUSINESS and INDUSTRY of photography as a whole.

The barrier to entry into photography has lowered beyond belief. In truth, it always was, or at least has been for the last 50 years. You could get a Kodak Brownie for $1 back in 1900 when it was introduced. Today, that's equivalent to $35 and it stayed in production for more than 80 years. The Canon AE-1 was quite sophisticated and robustly built when it came out in 1976 and is still a workhorse for many shooting film today. To some degree many were fooled into buying into the complexity of photography. Is it hard? Yes. It's meant to be hard! But it's learnable with minimal equipment. The dynamic mix of optical focus, film(sensor) sensitivity, shutter speed, and aperture control, plus how all that manipulates light, are the only real elements that matter. Everything else is garnish.

Art Model, Alba

Talent is talent and won't be denied, so I welcome it. The challenges should inspire everyone to level-up their photo skills. Technology and marketing has given us cheap entry-level cameras because manufacturers saw that as a new market. It's why I taught and gave my secrets to photography groups, clubs, and classes. All the while, encouraging those I mentored to be better than me... not like me. 

Optics were cheap but eventually, technology caught up and even cheap glass was good glass! You could get in the game for $400 and get $100 rebates during the holidays or wait until the following year and get last year's camera used for $200. What really drew fear into would-be photographers, even today, is lighting! Cameras, a few lenses... sure? Lights? No, especially not flash. But so what? You're at least in the game. What now? Website... Nope. SOCIAL MEDIA!

Art Model, Alba

Social Media has Been Revolutionary

No longer is it the Facebook of old that provided a way for college kids to communicate. It's not the MySpace that allowed us to express our digital selves and share with the world who we thought we were. It's become a medium that has flipped the script and now instead of wielding it as a tool, we are being wielded by it. It is STILL a tool, but not one used by us, I'm afraid. It has evolved and changed the perspectives on what we believe is important and valuable to us. Having 100 thousand followers on twitter and getting 10 thousand likes on a photo on IG has far more credence to our sense of worth than say 20 years ago, when we'd base our worth on the true value of an image because it generated actual dollars. How many times has this photo sold and for how much? How many books sold last month?  Social Media has transformed to appeal to our base desires to be wanted, desired, and feel "liked" to a point where we are OVER-SHARING in an attempt to get more likes. It has effectively asked us to give up our own sense of agency and autonomy and what do we get in return? The possibility of likes and followers which are arbitrary concepts that I thought got left behind in high school.

Today, social media is a tool which we THINK we use to share our images, promote our businesses, and connect with other users. While that may be partially true, you need to understand how revenue is generated by the various platforms. We are marketing subjects, data-mined and manipulated to buy products or influenced on how to feel about a topic, person, organization, or event. Whether commercial or political, social media is garnering our attention with one hand and then directing us how to feel about a product, a political position, or a group of people. Start your morning lingering in bed looking at memes, clips, and reels about social injustice and you go to work mad without even understanding why. The more reactions we have on their platforms, the more money they make. Fear and Anger generates the largest volume of reactions which means greater potential revenue for these platforms.

Art Model, Alba

Cell Phones and the Capability to Instantly Deliver Content

Cell phones has permeated our lives in a way that best facilitates our need for social media. If social media is the drug, cell phones are the syringes or the means of which we introduce this product into our minds. Cell phone photography has been a big boon to the business of photography. Because of increased camera quality and convenience, there is no shortage of shared imagery available for us to see. With so many platforms our minds are inundated with an over-abundance of pictures and the fool thing is that many are so damn similar!

Our phones have given us the means to create on the fly and everybody has become content creators. It's the new form of communication. Kids express themselves via reels, memes, Tik-Tok videos, and Instagram. All of which provide means to edit and create instantly. Data can be uploaded in mere seconds! But inevitably, that comes at a cost. Work becomes commoditized. It's all the same... a homogenous collection of derivative work and creations. Once one thing proves popular, a deluge of similar content floods the platform. I feel cheated. I feel cheated of creativity and originality when compared in ratio to the amount of artists and participants on each platform. I wish I had the numbers or even a way to calculate this ratio. How much original content per capita on a single platform?

Art Model, Alba


Sure Social Media has its pluses, pros, and benefits. But this is a Pandora's Box that has gotten away from us and I don't think there is any way to close it again. I'm not on Instagram since about 2018 when I got kicked off because I realized they were shadow-banning me, that is, several of my posted images didn't show up on other people's view of my profile, despite me seeing it on mine. I talked about it on my blog, which I posted on Facebook. Next day... ACCOUNT DELETED! But even when I joined in 2015, I was still concerned about these same things!

"What my hope is, however, is that photographers in general do not become so dependent on social media that they mismanage that trade-off. A couple of things can happen as of a result of this. One is that the art suffers. Less work is done in camera and the art side of photo is traded for Instagram filters. When this happens, less attention is given to craftsmanship. Photogs no longer worry about knowing their equipment or understanding light. Less attention is given to presentation, the print, or the art. In addition, photogs may have a tendency to give away their best work. In their exuberance to post quickly, filters become the new edit, and their best stuff gets published for free. Instead of hanging on a wall, the farthest potential a great shot might achieve is a 72dpi square screen-size image on a profile wall."

~ Photo Anthems Blog,  Finally Getting Down with Instagram, May 2015 

Social Media is different for me. I do landscapes, portraiture, but also nude art which isn't deemed by many platforms as "sociable". So, I'm a different case. If you can find benefit on the platform of your choice and not get lost in it or be negatively influenced, then maybe it's good for you. I hope you can financial benefit from it. You be the judge on whether or not it's become a detriment to your life, work, or art. I hope more people can take back the power dynamic of social media and not let it choke the life out of photography. No everyone is not an artist on social media, therefore the vast majority can ignore this post. But for the many who do call themselves, artists, the business of photography is at stake. Make sure your business is solid, but let's not do so at the expense of the industry. It is the foundation on which your business sits.

Art Model, Alba

08 November 2023

The Plight of Photography


Art Model, Keisha

Everyone has their own reasons for getting into photography, some of which may be far different from my own. I didn't do photography to make a buck. I didn't jump into it because a bunch of other people were doing it. Everybody has their own reasons. For me, I was first curious at a time where much of photography was not as wide-spread or readily shared. I didn't know anyone doing photography. I didn't see anyone doing photography. My hometown didn't have a camera store and I had never heard of a camera club. Nonetheless, there were concepts I didn't understand and much of it had to do with the speed of the lens. I had no clue what the numbers on the front of the lens meant. To me, a 55-200mm Zoom lens sounded badass. F4.5-6.3 STM must have meant something about it's special capability. It was certainly better than an 18-55mm. But the 75-300mm must be even better, as bigger numbers most often suggest! Right? [Wrong.]

And how do they get the blurry backgrounds? I tried and tried to take a shot like that and all I did was get an out of focus image. Maybe the images were two shots blended into one... with the subject in focus, but the background out of focus. Also, why can't I zoom out enough to get everything in the same frame? I knew it was possible because I'd seen wide-angle photos before. But what did it take to get shots like that? My friend took a photo of a ferris wheel at a fair in Germany, back when we both served in Delta Company 3/8 INF in Mainz. It looked like the thing must have been spinning out of control and was about to fly off it's foundation

Art Model, Keisha

"What the hell? This can't be real! How did you do that?" I asked. There were no digital cameras at the time and no Photoshop. This was all film.

"I just dropped my shutter," Coleman said. "Just slowed it down." And then he took his photos and walked away.

Curiosity is what inspired me, initially. But I also new those instant cameras were not going to do the work for me. My friend, Private First Class Coleman, spent a few hundred dollars on his DSLR camera. I could NOT even imagine spending more than $50 on a camera without my family telling me I'd lost all sense of priorities. 

"Photography has never been so popular, but it's getting destroyed. There have never been so many photographs taken, but photography is dying." 

~ Antonio Olmosquoted from an article written by Stuart Jeffries for The Guardian, 13 December 2013

Nudes furthered my interest in photography. I poured myself into it and with inspirations such as Edward Weston, Jerry Ulesmann, Harry Callahan, Sally Mann, and Spencer Tunick, I was hooked. I was an art model posing for colleges and local art clubs. Being a fashion model and an art model for over a decade also gave me a unique vantage from the model perspective. After 6 year into amateur photography and running photo groups, I finally went pro and built a business out of it.

Art Model, Keisha

Today, I still shoot. Or at least I'm ready to begin again since my shoulder is getting stronger. However, I don't do it hustling the same way I did before. I still have to get my grind in, but it's just different. But much has changed in recent years. Especially since Covid, photo seems to have taken a side-step. Not an evolution per se, as it has always done in the past. Since the beginning, photography has elevated mainly through technology. Since it's early beginnings, photography has evolved over time with innovation and feature improvements, such as auto-metering (exposure), autofocus, shooting full production video, and today, cameras can tell the difference between a subject matter, such as a person or a bird and make sure the eyes are in focus.

But they've also evolved to give us different perspectives. Skateboarders and adventurists popularized Action Cameras. They showed us what could be done when you strap a camera to a skateboard or to your helmet as you parachuted off a bridge and took us underwater! Drones made Arial Photography something everyone could do and changed the nature of motion pictures since they no longer required helicopters to do the same job. 

But cell phones put a camera in EVERYBODY's pocket. This might be where things changed and took photography in an entirely different direction. If that is for the better or detriment of photography... it depends on who you ask, perhaps. Digital Photography has been the real difference maker. It was the Pandora's Box in practically every sense of the analogy. I listened to the "old guys" in the camera store on Saturday mornings talk about how photography is dying. You'd read about it in photography forums. I argued that they said the same thing when Polaroid came out. And again when digital got popular.

Art Model, Keisha

Maybe it's just that now, I've reached that age and become one of the "old guys" leering at the future of photography as my guys did back in the day, but damn if those guys weren't right! So I'm going to do a series of posts, likely three in particular that deal with issues I see that might be detrimental to the game... or at least to the game, as I know it! Am I saying photography is dead? Well, I haven't said that yet. It's definitely experiencing a metamorphosis, though. People has written about the Death of Photography since Autofocus became a feature, but it really kicked off during the dawn of digital. The advent of Cell Phones started the conversation all over again just as we'd calmed the "Down with Digital" guys down. Now we have Artificial Intelligence and we have to start this conversation all over again. Certain genres of photography have been killed, for sure. You don't see people making a killing career of stock photography anymore. 

What are my feelings on this? I confess, I've turned into one of the old guys at the camera show looking for doom on the horizon. Photography is being taken for granted and I think it's getting disrespected. But I can't ask it to slow down. No one can. This new thing has it's own gravity and it doesn't need anyone to nurture or love it. It has a new identity. I'll cover this in future possts.

10 October 2023

The Most Beautiful Photographic Subject - The Milky Way


Spring Valley, NV

"We are all stars in this galaxy. All of us. No one's greater than the other."

- Scatman Crothers

I guess I should amend the title just a little bit. Anyone who knows me already knows the answer. But that's not what I'm talking about today. The title of this blog should read, The Most Beautiful of Photographic Subjects (Non-Nude)". Yes. That would be more accurate. 

Every photographer who enjoys photography has one thing they love to photograph. If you were paying attention, you noticed my qualifier... "who enjoys photography". To some, shooting is a job and when they are done with the job, the last thing they want to do is hold a camera in their hands when they aren't getting paid. I can respect that! I've known some who gladly tell you when they are done with work, the camera goes into the bag and no force of nature can make them pick it up again until time to clock back in. 

I am not one of those people. I shoot for my own interests as well as professionally. So for myself and photographers who can identify, we all have something we've developed a fondness to shoot. It could be anything (not including selfies and you kid/pet pics). Landscape is likely the most popular genre of photography, although I don't have any empirical data to support that hypothesis. I would say Bird and Wildlife is the next most popular, followed by Portraiture. But other genres include, Food, Still Life, Street Photography, Macro, Fashion, Sports... I could go on. 

Northern Colombia

Everybody has their thing. Mine? Aside from Art Nudes? I'd have to say it's photographing the Milky Way. My good friend, John Kompare was the first to suggest going out in the middle of the night to photograph the stars. If memory serves, we went out to the Eldorado Dry Lake bed just outside Las Vegas before you come to Boulder City. We ventured out with our tripods and cameras ready to capture the night sky. I had a huge stainless-steel (or maybe aluminum) tripod and was ready to do my thing. 

Learning is still the most interesting aspect of photography to me. What I thought I knew turned to to be absolutely incorrect. In my mind, I'm taking pinpoints of light that are very far away. Of course that meant a small aperture. AND you're photographing light sources. Any idiot knows you need a fast shutter speed for that. Click I take my shot. NOTHING. Just blackness. I thought I'd left my lens cap on. Nope. Had my camera malfunctioned? What the hell? 

Just for giggles, I extended the shutter speed to an exaggerated degree, in an attempt to get something.... anything. And that's all I got... something. I opened up my aperture. Boom! There were the stars. DAMN! I was the idiot! I had to sit back and think about how this worked, but yeah. I learned something new that evening. Stars may be light sources, but they are TINY light sources. This wasn't like shooting the moon. 

Virgin River, Utah

Sadly, I can't recall the details of seeing the Milky Way for the first time. I was in the military somewhere. It was in the middle of the night and pitch black under the trees. When out route took us into the edge of the treeline, I recall gazing skyward, seeing the cluster of stars, but had no clue what I was looking at. And just the same, most people I talk to now have never seen the Milky Way. We live in cities with so much light pollution, it's impossible to see. I wasn't taught this in school. Sure, I knew OF the Milky Way galaxy, but friggin' nobody told me it was possible to SEE it. I knew of Saturn and the different planets. Nobody told me I could see them! 

The earth is in a unique position within the Milky Way galaxy. You may have heard how the earth sits in the Goldilocks (or habital) Zone in our solar system. We are in an orbit around the sun that's not too close to make oceans boil and not too far away that they freeze. Our solar system orbits within the Goldilocks Zone of the Milky Way on one of the spiral arms that is not too close and not to far from the center. Therefore we are able to view the interior of our galaxy and when we look outward, we still see another cluster of stars from the outer arm of our galaxy. 

Rhyolite, NV

Right now, is the end of the season to see the Milky Way. Spring to mid-Fall is the season to view the Milky Way galaxy. You can still go out and see a sky full of stars, but you won't see the center of the Milky Way because during the late Fall and Winter months, the earth's tilts our plane of view the other way. It's been a while since I have photographed the Milky Way, but it remains the most beautiful thing I've seen that isn't a nude woman. I invite you all to enjoy the dark night sky. Las Vegas is the brightest place on the planet at night. I've driven maybe an hour north, looked back, and you can still see the Milky Way in the southern sky. Always look south. You can use a night sky app to see exactly where and when the Milky Way will be up. 

I invite you to join an astronomy club and hopefully they have a telescope for you to witness Saturn or Jupiter. Visit a planetarium in your city. Learn about the celestial bodies of our solar system. Get some binoculars and check out the moon! Or at the very least, grab your camera and tripod and go out someplace dark, with minimal light pollution, where you can see the unobstructed night sky and see what you can capture. I would say the next most beautiful, which I've never seen yet, would be the aurora borealis. How about you?

Rhyolite, NV

30 September 2023

Why We Don't Show Everything

Art Model, Leslie

This question first struck me several years ago. I think it was adding a new hard drive or doing something with my backup drives and came to realize how much art nude work I have that has never seen the light of day... or maybe the light of a backlit LCD screen, as it were. I've shot so many models doing maybe 30 to 70 edits per shoot and less than 15 to 20 of those ever been exhibited, get seen on my blog, website, or social media. I may not ever get exhibited in my art... for whatever reason.

Additionally, the model/client may not see EVERYTHING I shoot. They WILL, however, see everything I edit, even future edits, if I go back over them months or years down the road. But there is also much of that work that won't make it to the public arena for a myriad of reasons. I'll edit a shot. The model/client will get a copy, certainly. But there will be several that look good, but not make the cut.

Art Model, Leslie

The thought hasn't really passed my mind so much in recent history since I have been on my travels. I closed down my studio in November 2017 and sold or gave away everything. It came forefront to my mind again recently when I recently read an article where a photographer willed his assistant all his work and negatives. She talked about having so much of his work that he never printed, exhibited, or showed anyone. I'll have to find that article again and do a blog post on it. For the life of me, I can't recall the photographer. 

But anyway, I can relate to that. I am not a photographer who takes a million pics and then let the client go through them all and pick out what they want to keep. I've never done it. I can understand accepting that concept in a studio environment. Or maybe in sessions where you have a particular shot list and you have to hit a certain look. In all my work and time in studio, I get a general idea of what the client wants and I shoot with that in mind. The more specific the better. Other times I am the one with the photo concept. And we're speaking strictly in terms of photographing people. This won't be the same with product photography or interior design/architecture photography. I've done those too. 

Art Model, Leslie

High Volume Sessions
When the mood is right and the light is bright, therein lies the magic. I'm not talking romance... rather synergy! Sometimes you get with a model and y'all just click. She'll get into a pose that you have in your mind, JUST before you ask for it! Or better yet, hers is better! Maybe there is an atmospheric phenomenon that feels like God has ordained and blessed that collaboration. Or sometimes, it's just the opposite, but it works in your favor anyway. 

It's hard to put the camera down, in moments like that. You'll both lose track of time and the hours have clicked away unbeknownst to either of you. You notice it getting dark, but it's adding drama and mystery to your photo session so you keep shooting. Before you know it, you're 2000 photos in on what should have been a 300-shot photo session. I shoot, on average, about 100 shots an hour. I know other photogs who will triple or quadruple that. But that's generally my work rate. All those images will not get edited! Ain't no photog got time for that! You take the best of them and roll!

Art Model, Leslie

I'll often shoot like a sniper. One shot. One kill. But even doing that, I may get a few variations of the same shot with slight adjustments on the pose, lighting, point of focus, or depth of field. And then amongst those, I'll pick one or two. Every single look won't make the cut. Duplicates might be good for a revisit later on with a new edit, inconsistent with the main body of work where it stands on its own.

Bad Shots/Experimental Shots
Believe it or not, sometimes my exposure is off. It happens! Or sometimes the model's eyes are closed. It could be that I just want to try something and will add in a prop, take the shot, and then realize it looks stupid. No problem. I'll take the shot the correct way. The rest can just take up space on my hard drive. I RARELY delete anything. I do! But once it makes it onto my computer, it usually stays. I have less problem deleting a bad shot in camera. Particularly if I need to save space on the card. In some cases, I've been known to revisit bad shots and play with them. See what can happen. Maybe after a few years, I get a new editing tool that makes that bad shot a potentially good one.

Professional Pride/Self-Respect
In more cases than not, if you're hiring me or collaborating with me, it's because you like my style of shooting and want to be a part of it. I like my reputation as a professional and as an artist, I simply don't ever want a bad shot to see the light of the public eye. I take pride in my work and I want it hanging on the walls for people to admire, judge, critique, or even make fun of. But it begins with me! If I don't like it, I can't let it out. Because once I put it out there for the world to see, it's going to be judged. And as long as I can remain true to myself, then I let judgements fall where they may. I can accept that and learn from it. But I don't want to put out bad work when I know better. 

Art Model, Leslie

22 September 2023

Rotator Cuff Recovery and MORE Changes


Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi for her birthday

"I don’t care about making photography an art. I want to make good photographs. I’d like to know who first got it into his head that dreaminess and mist is an art. Take things as they are; take good photographs and the art will take care of itself." (1923) 

- EDWARD STEICHEN, Photographer and curator, b. 1879, Luxembourg, Germany, d. 1973, West Redding, Connecticut

The good news is that I am no longer in constant pain and don't need pain meds. However, six months post-op, I am still weak! Okay, I'm not a push over, per se... but I can't take a chance of overdoing things. I have to be careful and not take unnecessary chances. Nonetheless, I'm making significant strides and improvements. Benchmarks include the ability to take off a pullover shirt, reaching higher up into the middle of my back, arm extensions with a 6 lb weight, and connecting with a right hook on a 60-pound dog that wanted to play nasty.

I've been using this time to make adjustments. The last time I spoke on this, I mentioned how the US had changed and the culture shock I experienced when I returned last September. In response, I have been reviewing and considering different approaches to this lifestyle I've chosen. I've chosen this walk and I've essentially done it alone. I've had people in my life along the way who have been there for me... the right people, the right place, and the right time. I am grateful to God for them and I pray His favor continues. 

I've been on this journey for five and a half years with currently no end in sight. The goal is a mix between Caine in "Kung Fu" and "Star Trek". I am destined to walk the earth, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where many people have already gone, but I need to see it for myself.

I was in the US from September 2022 until May 2023. I did not know I had a complete tear in my rotator cuff. Surgery wasn't until March. During all that time, I realized I had to make some changes. My banking needs had to be adjusted. My cellular plan no longer fit me. The way I spent money put me at a disadvantage. Also in this time-frame, I jumped ship from PC to Mac with the new 16" MacBook Pro M2. I got my first new iPhone since the iPhone X Pro Max. I bought a 14 Pro Max and then I CHANGED CARRIERS! Now I don't have to deactivate my phone number when I am outside the country. I have unlimited data for text and internet here in Vietnam, but calls still cost me .20 cents/min. 

Coincidentally, I had lunch with a good British friend of mine at our favorite restaurant, Puku, here in Hanoi. Speaking on all these changes, I told him I wouldn't be opposed to changing camera systems, but Fujifilm is the only one I'd consider. I like their GFX system, but it hadn't been updated in a while. The VERY NEXT DAY, Fujifilm announced the new 102 megapixel, GFX1000 II. It's $1500 more than the previous version at $7500, but I'm giving this some serious thought. For me, I'd also have to get 2 or 3 lenses to go with it. I've got time to weigh this as I am not 100% healthy yet (6 more months to go!) and I'm sure I'd wait until I was stateside again to get it.

The main point here is, sometimes it's good to shake things up. Instead of always going right, venture left. I didn't NEED to switch from PC to Mac. I wanted a new computer. So why not switch things up a little? AT&T didn't necessarily need my business. Bank of America and Wells Fargo didn't incentivize me to stay with them. I never go into the branches. Why pay all those fees? You know what... I'm going to get into that in another blog post later. Stay tuned. 

Las Vegas surprised me the biggest. Costs were way up since I was there pre-Covid. Hotel and Uber prices/fees threw me for a loop! I'm used to paying for a Grab here in Vietnam and I've never paid more than $5 to get anywhere in the city, or $20 to get to the airport. And the resort fees? Damn, Vegas! I didn't intend to return to the US for so long, but you gotta do what you have to do. Prior to surgery, I split time between my family in TX, the kids in TN & NE, plus 50 days in Costa Rica. When I had surgery, I recovered for a month at my parents and foolishly thought I could travel! Getting back to Hanoi was the hardest physical thing I've done since Ranger school in the Army. I'm serious. It was the exhaustive. I was beat. Many, MANY thanks to the lady working at the Al Maha Lounge in Doja, Qatar. Talk about the Lord having someone in the right place for me. If not for her, I think I'd have just given up, loaded up on Oxycodone and Valium, went to sleep in a corner, and let my plane fly on without me. 

More to come on all this. I just wanted to get this rant out of my system.